Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more spaces within your spine. This reduced space puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. In turn, this pressure can cause the spinal cord or nerves to become irritated, compressed, or pinched, which can lead to back pain and sciatica.
Spinal stenosis occurs typically in the lower back and the neck and usually develops slowly over time. It is most commonly caused by osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear changes that naturally occur in your spine as you age. Some people with spinal stenosis may not have symptoms. Others may experience pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness in their neck, back, arms, legs, hands, or feet.
Spinal stenosis can occur anywhere along the spine but most commonly occurs in either the lower back (the most common area), known as lumbar canal stenosis or the neck, known as cervical spinal stenosis. It can also occur in the abdomen, known as thoracic spinal stenosis. Symptoms vary from person to person and may come and go.
Symptoms of lower back, lumbar canal spinal stenosis include:
- Pain in the lower back
- Sciatica pain that begins in the buttocks and runs down the leg, and may continue into your foot
- A heavy feeling in the legs, which may lead to cramping in one or both legs.
- Numbness or tingling that feels like pins and needles in the buttocks, leg, or foot.
- Weakness in the leg or foot as the stenosis worsens.
- Pain that worsens when standing for long periods, walking or walking downhill, which usually eases when you bend forward or sit.
- Pain that lessens when leaning, bending slightly forward, walking uphill, or sitting.
- In severe cases, loss of bladder or bowel control.
Symptoms of neck, cervical spine stenosis include:
- Neck pain.
- Numbness or tingling, weakness or clumsiness in the arm, hand, leg or foot.
- Problems with walking and balance.
- Loss of function in hands.
- In severe cases, bowel or bladder dysfunction, urinary urgency, and incontinence.